Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Revamping my Sofa

Our flat in Battersea is my man and I's first home together after graduating from university, and as such is full of inherited, bargain and the owner's furniture. We've had 'new' sofas in our flat freshly inherited from a house move, for more than a year now; but hadn't really got around to updating them and making them more personal. The sofa itself is pretty comfy but the cushions were looking old and saggy, and frankly just a bit boring.

Sofa before

Upholstery fabric
I went shopping for cushions, online, in the shops, even on ebay, but any with an interesting pattern that I liked were just too expensive. So I decided to make my own envelope-style covers, and recycle our old cushion pads.
The fabric I used is all upholstery weight cotton, which is best for cushions that are going to be well used rather than throw pillows just for decoration. I bought all my fabric from Fabric Galore near Clapham Junction/Queenstown Road. This was my first time visiting my local fabric shop, and it is AMAZING. In particular they have a great range of upholstery cotton with lovely patterns.
I bought enough fabric to make 3 of the red spotty cushions, 1 each of the large clock and stamp styles and some linen for my embroidered London cushion. All this cost less than £50 for 6 new cushion covers, with a lot of leftover scraps for other projects.

Making an envelope cushion cover is really straightforward, there's no need for zips or buttons, and it's easy enough to do without a sewing machine. Obviously if you have a machine it's a lot quicker, but I did one cushion a night quite easily by hand sewing. Use a backstitch and take care to keep the stitches small. I don't have any photos of the process I'm afraid, but there are some great tutorial videos on YouTube.

  • Cut out a square for the front of your cushion that is 1 inch larger around than your cushion pad. So if the cushion is 14" by 14" then it should be 15" by 15". 
  • Then cut another piece of fabric that is the same width but add 4 inches to the length for the overlap. So it would be 15" by 19". You may want to add more for the overlap for very thick cushion pads, or particularly large ones. 
  • Cut the larger piece of fabric in half. With the two pieces wrong side up, fold over a strip of about 1/2 inch for a seam along the inner edges and iron. Pin and then sew along the inner fold. 
  • Place the front piece of your cushion in front of you with the right side up. Place one half of the back piece on top, right side down with the seam in the middle. Put the other half on top so they overlap and line up the edges with the front piece. 
  • Pin the pieces together and sew all around 1/2 inch from the edge. 
  • Cut any long threads and across the corners, close to the stitch line. Turn inside out, poke out the corners and insert your cushion pad!

I also made a couple of knitted cushion pads using this pattern Four Cables Pillow. I couldn't get hold of 10mm circular needles anywhere, so I knitted straight in two sections. If you do this don't forget to do the opposite on the even rows, so knit when it says purl etc.
I also added an extra stitch at the beginning and end of each side for the join. The pattern says it would fit a cushion of 40cm by 40cm which is roughly 16", but mine was way too small for that and fitted nicely around a 12" by 12" pad.

So... here is my finished revamped sofa, complete with throws and lots of new cushions!

My Revamped Sofa

Making new cushion covers was a really easy way of adding some colour and interest to my sofa and living room. This was also my first sewing project, hopefully of many, and I really loved it despite having to sew every stitch by hand! Although I have an inkling the birthday fairies might bring me a shiny machine for my birthday in the summer...

Emily Kate.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Lady Grey Tea Cupcakes

My all-time favourite drink is Twinings Lady Grey tea. For anyone who's never heard of it, it's similar to Earl Grey tea but with lovely citrus flavours. Unfortunately it's not all that cheap, and I drink a LOT of tea, so Tesco's own brand often has to do. So when I was standing in a shop on Valentine's day with my boyfriend offering to buy me something as a present, I went for some Lady Grey teabags.

I've heard about the Earl Grey tea cupcakes sold at The Hummingbird bakery, but shock horror, I've never actually tried one. So I made my own :) I just used my basic no-mucking-about cupcake recipe, and added some tea. The tea has strong citrus flavours so I experimented with some orange zest in the icing to compliment it.

Lady Grey Tea Cupcakes

50ml boiling water
Lady Grey Tea Cupcakes
Lady Grey Tea Cupcakes
3 lady grey teabags
100g butter or margerine
175g caster sugar
2 eggs
1 tbsp baking powder
180g plain flour
50g natural yoghurt

for the buttercream icing:
2 tbsp milk
100g butter, softened and cut into small cubes.
300g icing sugar
zest of half an orange

for cupcake toppers -
small amount of royal icing
yellow and blue food colouring
icing sugar

  • Add the teabags to the boiling water in a mug and leave to brew. It's best to do this half an hour before you start making your cakes so it has time to brew. Preheat the oven to 180 C/350 F.
  • Cream together the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl, until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, and mix well after each one. 
  • Sift the flour and baking powder together and fold in. 
  • Stir in the yoghurt and the tea. Squeeze the teabags out fully into the mixture, but don't throw them away.
  • Spoon the cake mix into a muffin tin lined with cupcake cases and bake for 15-20mins. Take them out when the top is springy to the touch.
  • To make the icing, put the reserved teabags into a bowl with the 2 tbsp milk and leave to infuse.
  • Sift the icing sugar into a bowl and cream together with the icing sugar. Add the milk and orange zest.
  • When the cakes are out of the oven and completely cooled, carefully pipe the icing on in swirls, dust with icing sugar and top with a cupcake topper of your choice!

For the little teapot cupcake toppers, I simply drew a basic outline of a teapot onto baking paper and used it as a template to cut around. I combined a little water and icing sugar for the icing and piped some detail onto the cut out teapots. I used the plastic piping bags you can buy in a pack from supermarkets, and cut off the very tip so I could pipe very thin lines. This was all quite fiddly, but didn't actually take as long as you might think. I made 12 cupcakes toppers and iced them in around an hour. 

For a first experiment these turned out pretty tasty. I took them along to a meeting I had with friends the next day and they went down really well....despite the fact I'm hopeless at transporting cupcakes and they arrived like this:

But it's the taste that counts...right? 

It's been a lovely sunny day here in London, so I thought I'd share the view I had on my walk today. 

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Eggless Pancakes

When I was growing up, we had pancakes a little different. My older sister has allergies to both eggs and dairy, so my Mum invented new recipes for all sorts of cakes and deserts. This was back in the 90's, before the internet, and such things as vegan cakes and deserts were available to buy. So here is my take on my Mum's recipe for egg-free milk-free pancakes.

This recipe makes only around 3/4 pancakes, but is easily doubled/tripled/quadrupled, depending on how hungry you are...!

5 heaped tablespoons of plain flour
pinch of salt
1 tbsp of vegetable/sunflower oil
1/2 tsp of bicarbonate of soda
tsp of lemon juice

First, sieve the flour with the salt into a mixing bowl. Make a well in the centre and pour in the oil. Gradually whisk the mixture together adding a little water at a time, until the batter is still thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, but not too watery. If the batter is quite lumpy, don't fret! I find whisking like crazy tends to do the trick, or if all else fails strain through a sieve.

Now of course if dairy is not a problem, add some milk to the batter, or even buttermilk/soya milk as an alternative. Personally I use a combination of half water/half milk for egg pancakes, as I like them quite light. Top Tip: You can also add soda water or even lemonade in place of the water, this makes the batter light and bubbly.

Just before you are ready to cook the pancakes, add the lemon juice to the bicarbonate of soda (it should froth up), add this to the batter and stir in very gently. Put a frying pan on a high heat and grease it with oil, enough so the frying pan is shiny, but there are no pools of liquid. When the pan is hot enough, pour a small amount of batter into the pan and wiggle it around so the surface is covered. when the edges start to lift away from the pan, lift up to see if the underside is cooked. Then flip and cook for 30 seconds on the other side. Then flip it about to your hearts delight and add whatever topping takes your fancy.

If you fancy going out to eat pancakes instead, my favourite place to eat pancakes in London is My Old Dutch. The Dutch make the most amazing little fluffy pancakes, served with butter and a pile of icing sugar called Poffertjes.

Happy Pancake Day!

Friday, 8 February 2013

Sew very London...

About a year ago, in a shop somewhere along the Northcote Road in Clapham, I saw a lovely embroidered cushion. It was white and had embroidered onto it the buildings of the London skyline, but it cost £100.
This January I decided it was about time I updated our inherited sofas a bit, and made them more personal. I thought back to the cushion I saw and thought...'I could do that!'.
Hand embroidered london cushion
hand embroidered London cushion
This is the first embroidery project I've ever embarked on, but it wasn't quite as difficult as I thought it might be at first. I've learnt embroidery is really just a collection of stitches, so if you can use a needle and thread, you can embroider.

All you need to make a cushion like this is an embroidery needle (slightly bigger than a normal needle), some embroidery thread/floss, some material and an embroidery hoop. I used an unknown linen from the sale in my local fabric shop. It's best to use a material like linen where you can see the threads, so it's easier to see where to put the needle. Embroidery thread is made up of six strands, I used one for the outline of the buildings and 2 or 3 threads to colour in areas.

So I began by deciding what I wanted to include in my design. I picked the buildings London is most famous for, and I had to include Battersea power station as it's just across the road from my flat.
I sketched out each building and went over it in black pen when I was happy with it. Then I arranged them on a template the same size as my cushion, in order from the west to the east of the city. To get the design on the material was quite difficult but I made do by pinning the template to it, holding it up to a window and tracing over it. If was to do it again though I think a heat transfer pencil would be a good investment!

 Next, I started to stitch. My design is just made up of lines, so I used a simple backstitch, in plain black thread.

When the main design was complete, I added some shading on the gherkin, and for the windows on the Houses of Parliament and St. Pauls. To add some colour, I decided to include some smaller things that London is most famous for, in bright red thread. An underground sign, a telephone box and a London bus. Lastly, I added a lovely dark blue ribbon for the river Thames.

I then rather hurriedly and somewhat excitedly, made my design into the front of an envelope type cushion cover (which I will post about at a later date...).

This first trip into the world of embroidery has gone much smoother than I could have expected, and left me with lots of ideas and most importantly, a lovely cushion without having to spend £100!

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Emily Kate Makes... A Blog.

So here we go, my very first blog post. Everyone's doing it, so how hard can it be?

It is a dream of mine to one day own a little cafe/tearoom back in the west country, full of lovely things and lovely food. Since that is all rather a long way off I decided to start this blog, as a record of all my baking, knitting and general crafting projects and ideas.

I like to make things. I've always loved baking cakes and desserts, mostly because I love eating them, and a year ago I started a bit of a knitting obsession. I've recently started trying to make my little flat a little more homely, and turned to the internet and the blogosphere for inspiration.

Hopefully someone might see my little blog, and it might inspire them to make something too. :)